Lit Hum Adjuncts Fight for Wages, Food in 74th Annual Core Gladiatorial Games

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY- On Thursday evening, Public Safety officers investigated a strange commotion beneath Hamilton Hall. No incident report was filed, but many onlookers were horrified by the events that took place. They described a cavernous room crowded with nearly one hundred “stale academical types.”  These students — poor, helpless, ignorant Barnard lambs that they were — had stumbled upon the university’s annual gladiatorial games.

As the clash of metal upon metal resounded about the chamber, blood-drenched cloth lay strewn upon a floor similarly bespattered with blood, reflecting the sickly-green faces of adjuncts big and small. Of these virgin gladiators, the copious recipients of Ivy League undergraduate degrees would soon lay eyes upon their own ichor, a sight their divine privilege had not previously afforded. Others would put to use the brawny hands begotten of Midwestern farm life. For the games, indeed, are savage. Last year alone, CAVA transported seven faculty members to St. Luke’s for emergency care.  “It was oddly nice to treat something other than alcohol poisoning,” said Mike Brown, a CAVA spokesman.

And yet, most students and faculty are completely oblivious to the Games’ existence. For years, no one has ever questioned the fact that adjunct professors in the Literature Humanities department are not afforded a regular salary; rather, they must fight for their wages at the beginning of each semester. Those who prove to be the greatest warriors gain not only kleos, but a meager purse with which to pay their rent and utility bills, along with a free copy of Lattimore’s translation of the Iliad, “a gift from the Columbia College Alumni Association.” What’s more, one competitor in this year’s games claimed that “those who proved most honorable in the arena were given a year’s supply of Kind bars, Veggie Straws, and Diet Coke.” It’s a comfort to know then, that these professors are not burdened with families to support, for they are largely incapable of traditional social interaction, preferring epic poetry to the company of their fellow men (see Engelmann et. al. On the Overwhelming Celibacy of American College Professors).

But now, faint groans of agony, mingled with the blood-curdling screams of triumph, and interrupted only by brief, sudden gasps of astonishment split the air and echoed about a dim, torch-lit basement somewhere in Hamilton. The sight that accompanied the uproar, however, was far more psychologically stirring. Around the chamber rounded-out, middle-aged men and mousy women stood side by side, clothed only in tunics and sports-bras (where appropriate that is); beads of sweat rolled down their shimmering bodies; and they gripped between them a brilliant assortment of arms: tridents, nets, swords of course, shields and spears.

As one fallen woman was taken away on a stretcher, a young boy approached her vanquisher and handed over a Trader Joe’s gift card — an acknowledgement of her great bravery and valor.

It should come as no surprise then that the often exclusively aloof and indifferent President Bollinger was present at these games (as opposed to Columbia sporting events). He stood proudly upon a balcony, gleefully watching his subordinates exchanging blows and wrestling over their livelihoods.